SBD/Issue 18/Sports Media

Packers-Vikings "MNF" Draws Largest Audience In Cable History

ESPN earned a 15.3 cable rating and 21.839 million viewers for this week's Packers-Vikings "MNF" game, marking the highest rating ever on ESPN and the most-viewed program in cable TV history. The game surpassed ESPN's previous best rating, a 14.4 for Bears-Vikings in December '87, and supplanted the previous cable viewership record of 18.608 million viewers for Eagles-Cowboys "MNF" in September '08. Packers-Vikings also earned a 13.2 U.S. rating, marking cable's highest-rated telecast ever, ahead of an 11.9 U.S. rating for CNN's Gore-Perot NAFTA debate on "Larry King Live" in November '93. Among all cable and broadcast nets, Packers-Vikings is the No. 1 primetime program in viewers, HHs and all key male and adult demos over the past two weeks and also gave ESPN the win Monday night across all demo categories. Through five games, "MNF" is averaging an 11.4 cable rating and 15.684 million viewers, up 18.8% and 20.9%, respectively, from a 9.6 rating and 12.972 million viewers through the same point last season (THE DAILY).

TOP FIVE MOST-VIEWED PROGRAMS IN CABLE HISTORY
DATE
PROGRAM
NET
VIEWERS (000)
10/5/09
"MNF": Packers-Vikings
ESPN
21,839
9/15/08
"MNF": Eagles-Cowboys
ESPN
18,608
12/3/07
"MNF": Patriots-Ravens
ESPN
17,522
8/17/07
"High School Musical 2"
Disney
17,241
11/9/93
"Larry King Live" (NAFTA Debate)
CNN
16,837

LASTING IMPRESSION: DAILY VARIETY's Rick Kissell notes the "only regular season primetime NFL game to draw a larger crowd" than Packers-Vikings this year was the September 20 Giants-Cowboys "Sunday Night Football" game on NBC, which drew 24.817 million viewers for the regular-season debut of Cowboys Stadium. Meanwhile, "MNF" and "SNF" are "on pace for their strongest seasons since ESPN and NBC took over those respective packages" in '06 (DAILY VARIETY, 10/7). In DC, Lisa de Moraes writes of Packers-Vikings, which featured Vikings QB Brett Favre facing his former team for the first time, "And you thought sports fans wouldn't watch a soap opera." Packers-Vikings "eclipsed everything offered to viewers last week on broadcast television" in primetime (WASHINGTON  POST, 10/7). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Hibberd & Andreeva note with "all of the eyeballs on ESPN," Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS saw week-to-week declines Monday (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 10/7).

Monday's Packers-Vikings' Local Rating
Beats Super Bowl XLIII's Rating In Market
LOCAL MARKET LOVE: In Minneapolis, Judd Zulgad reports Packers-Vikings drew a "staggering" 58.3 combined local rating in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market on ESPN and KSTP-ABC, meaning the game "easily beat" the 43.3 rating in the market for Super Bowl XLIII in February. Packers-Vikings drew 1.009 million of the approximately 1.7 million HHs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/7). Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley reports Packers-Vikings earned a 49.6 combined local rating in the market on ESPN and WISN-ABC, marking the highest-rated Packers game in the Milwaukee market since Packers-Cowboys in November '07, which drew a combined local rating of 55.2 (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 10/7). YAHOO SPORTS' Matthew Darnell wrote the local ratings are "Super Bowl-esque." Darnell: "If you think ESPN turned up the hype machine for this one, wait until you see what Fox does for the November 1st rematch at Lambeau" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/6).

WORK IN PROGRESS: YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase reviewed ESPN analyst Jon Gruden's performance on "MNF" through four weeks and wrote, "It's not that Gruden is worse than [Tony] Kornheiser, because he isn't. Obviously Gruden knows a ton about football -- more than Kornheiser, or myself, or you could ever dream of knowing -- but he isn't yet able to channel his vast knowledge of the game into something palatable for a mass TV audience." Gruden at times "can be too wonky and pepper his monologues with so much jargon that it leaves the most knowledgeable of fans scratching their heads," while at other points he "dumbs down his comments to such a degree that he's left speaking completely in cliche and trite hyperbole." Gruden "rarely says anything that good NFL fans haven't already noticed themselves" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/6).

SEEING RED: In Pennsylvania, Keith Groller wrote NFL Network's RedZone channel is the "perfect product for these fast-paced times." If you "really don't care about any particular game or team and just want to get a feel for what's going on an NFL Sunday and stay abreast of your Fantasy League starters, this is your channel." But it "can be disconcerting to be getting absorbed in one team's scoring drive, only to be taken away to another game without warning." Groller: "If you really want to experience the complete ebb and flow of your favorite team's game, this channel is not for you" (Allentown MORNING CALL, 10/6).

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